“The world lost a leader in the pursuit of justice.”
Benjamin Berell Ferencz, better known as Ben Ferencz, the last remaining living prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials who tried the Nazis for crimes against humanity and genocide, died in Florida (USA) at the age of 103, the United States Holocaust Museum confirmed.
“The world lost a leader in the pursuit of justice for the victims of genocide and related crimes. We mourn the death of Ben Ferencz, the last Nuremberg war crimes prosecutor,” the museum wrote on its social media.
The memorial museum, created to “inspire citizens and leaders around the world to confront hatred, prevent genocide and promote human dignity,” noted that Ferencz, at 27 years old and with no previous trial experience, obtained verdicts from guilty verdicts against 22 Nazis.
Ferencz passed away last Friday in Boynton Beach, a coastal city in Florida (southeast) located in Palm Beach County.
According to a blog post by Professor John Q. Barrett of St. John’s University in New York, who was his student, last March Ferencz had just turned 103 years old, But “he liked to say that he was already living to be 104 years old”.
From poverty and a hostile environment to Harvad.
Born March 11, 1920 in Transylvania (Romania), Ferencz arrived in the United States hand in hand with his parents when he was 10 months old.
“He grew up in the ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ of New York City. He knew poverty, rampant crime and suffering. He quickly became a public school student, a college graduate, a law school graduate Harvard Law School and a U.S. Army infantryman from World War II,” Barrett reminisced on his blog.
Aurtor of “The Jackson List,” an archive of publications about U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Nuremberg chief prosecutor Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), Barrett says he feels very grateful from his “teacher” and “dear and generous friend” Ben Ferencz.
After Ferencz graduated from Harvard in 1943, he joined a anti-aircraft artillery battalion. which was preparing for the invasion of France.
As a soldier he fought in major campaigns in Europe. When Nazi atrocities were uncovered, he was transferred to a Branch of Army War Crimes newly created to collect evidence of Nazi brutality and arrest criminals, details the benferencz.org website.
In his book “PlanetHood: The Key to Your Future” (1988), written to promote. a system of international law complete and with courts, Ferencz describes the scenes he witnessed while liberating “these centers of death and destruction.”
“Camps like Buchenwald, Mauthausen and Dachau are etched vividly in my mind. Even today, when I close my eyes, I am a witness to a deadly sight that I can never forgetThe crematoria glowing with the fire of burning flesh, the piles of emaciated corpses stacked like firewood waiting to be burned…. I had glimpsed hell,” he recounted.
Beginning in the spring of 1946, Ferencz served as. prosecutor in Nurembergin the U.S. occupation zone of what had been Nazi Germany.
Between 1947 and 1948, Barrett details, Ben was chief prosecutor of the Einsatzgruppen case, about the prosecution of members of Nazi Germany’s roving execution squads. “It was his first case as a lawyer. He accused the leaders of Nazi extermination operations in Eastern Europe of crimes against humanity (…), war crimes and membership in Nazi criminal organizations,” his pupil recalls.
More than twenty Einsatzgruppen defendants were convicted of killing nearly one million people. “The Einsatzgruppen case was and is. the largest murder trial in human history,” Barrett points out.
“Nuremberg taught me that creating a world of tolerance and compassion would be a long and arduous task. And I also learned that if we do not dedicate ourselves to developing effective worldwide laws, the same cruel mentality that made the Holocaust possible could one day destroy the entire human race“, Ferencz has said of his interest in establishing an international court to try any government for war crimes.
“From the first time I met Ben, in 1999, I knew he would be the Nuremberg podium prosecutor. longest-serving. I knew it from the math: Ben was very young (26, or close enough) at Nuremberg,” Barrett wrote.
Ferencz is survived by. a son and three daughters. His wife, Gertrude Fried, passed away in 2019.